For the second consecutive week, the Cleveland Browns faced a winless opponent, starting a rookie quarterback.
In the NFL, the key is simply winning. Style points, regarding how a team wins or loses and the type of competition, play no part in deciding playoff teams.
The exception is with a tiebreaker situation when about the fifth or sixth item down on the tiebreaker list involves total sports scored or something like that. It's rarely needed to determine playoff teams. But it might be needed this year in the AFC where several teams may end up at 9-7.
Here are some stats from the Oct 26 Oak-Cle game.
- Cleveland 3rd-down efficiency: 2-12
- Oakland 3rd-down efficiency: 6-19
- Total plays: Oak 81 - Cle 54
- Hoyer passing: 19-28 for 267 yards
- Carr passing: 34-56 for 316 yards
- Browns rushing: 25 attempts for only 39 yards, averaged 1.6 yards per rush
- Time of possession: Oak 34:52 - Cle 25:08
Against Jacksonville, Cleveland rushed for 69 yards on 30 attempts.
Two weeks in a row, winless teams jammed the line of scrimmage and stalled Cleveland's running game.
Cleveland's ironman center Alex Mack got injured in the Pittsburgh game and is lost for the season with a broken leg. Is it a coincidence that in the two complete games without Mack, the Browns running game has looked feeble, and Cleveland's scoring output has declined noticeably?
It's also possible that since opponents have more film on the Browns' offense, the teams know Cleveland's tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses.
In my opinion, Hoyer is a good quarterback, but he lacks good pass-catching playmakers.
WR Josh Gordon is still out due to suspension, and back in May, the Browns elected not to draft WR Sammy Watkins who is making plays with surprise Buffalo who has a record of 5-3. Cleveland plays at Buffalo on November 30.
It would have been interesting if Hoyer had Gordon and Watkins to throw to since week one.
Fans can dwell on the would-haves, could-haves, and should-haves, but players, coaches, and management cannot. Fans can look ahead at upcoming opponents, but players and coaches cannot.
Against Oakland, Cleveland TE J. Cameron got injured and missed much of the game, making it even harder for Hoyer to make plays with the passing game.
But Hoyer's efficiency and lack of mistakes gave him a QB rating of 111 for the game.
Cleveland not making mistakes and waiting for the winless Raiders to make mistakes were keys to the Browns' win.
At halftime, Cleveland led Oakland 9-6. Neither team scored in the third quarter.
Near the end of the third quarter, the Raiders drove into Browns territory, and it appeared that Oakland would at least score a field goal to tie the game, but McFadden fumbled at the Cleveland 20.
If Cleveland had won this way on the road at Oakland, then fine, they got the ugly win at a long road game and got out of Dodge. Take it and move on.
But at home, starting the fourth quarter, leading a winless team only 9-6 is a bit disconcerting, when considering Cleveland's schedule over the last half of the season.
At least the Browns are 3-1 at home this year. That's a plus. Hold serve at home. The Browns should end the season at least 5-3 at home and possibly 6-2, which would give the Browns a good chance to finish 9-7 and have a shot at making the playoffs. Thus far, the Browns struggle on the road, especially in the first half of games.
Cleveland's next game is at home against 1-6 Tampa Bay.
What an amazingly bad three-game opponent list for Cleveland: winless Jacksonville, winless Oakland, and one-win Tampa Bay.
The reality check begins only four days after the Tampa Bay game when Cleveland plays on Thursday night at Cincinnati.
With the weak offenses that Cleveland's defense will have faced during this three-game stretch of bad teams and really during the four out of five game stretch when including the Titans (2-6), the Cincy game could be a rude awakening for Cleveland.
I assume Cleveland will do enough to win against Tampa Bay. Cleveland needs to play a complete game in all areas against TB. If the Browns win ugly again, then the Cincy game could be a rout early.
Cincy has been tough at home over the past two seasons. If Cleveland can hang close early and not trail by more than two scores in the first half, then the Browns have a chance.
But I can see the first half against the Bengals looking like the first halves at Pitt and at TN, except Cleveland won't mount a second-half comeback against Cincy.
Gordon returns for week 12 at Atlanta on November 23. But will he be NFL-ready and productive immediately, or will it take a couple games to get used to the action?
One area that Cleveland needs to improve quickly is with punt returns.
Oct 28, 2014 - ProFootballTalk - Browns not looking for help at punt returner
The Browns haven’t been productive on punt returns this season and that didn’t change in their 23-13 victory over the Raiders.
Travis Benjamin fielded two punts and fumbled one of them, although the Browns were able to recover the ball. It’s the second time that Benjamin has mishandled a punt this season and the third time that a Browns returner has put the ball on the ground overall. They’ve averaged a league-worst 2.8 yards on their returns for the season, but neither that nor the prospect of turning the ball over has the team thinking about bringing in help at the position.
Bad punt-return play contributed to the loss at Jacksonville, and it nearly allowed Oakland back in the game.
Oct 28, 2014 - USA Today - Midseason rookie check-in: How every NFL team’s 2014 class is faring
1. Bills: Sunday’s showboating aside, Watkins is blossoming into the playmaker GM Doug Whaley envisioned when he surrendered a first-round pick to get him.
6. Browns: Second-round G Joel Bitonio has easily been the best of the bunch, but RBs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell and LB Chris Kirksey have been frequent contributors with the backs capably handling much of the load when Ben Tate was hurt. Undrafted WR Taylor Gabriel is also coming on. Top pick Justin Gilbert has struggled at corner, and first-round QB Johnny Manziel is stuck to the pine.
The 2014 NFL trade deadline ends at 4:00 p.m. today, Oct 28. No rumors about Cleveland making any deals.
Cleveland has two first-round draft picks in the 2015 draft. The second one came from the deal with Buffalo on draft day back in May 2014. The Bills wanted Watkins, so they were willing to trade up by giving Cleveland the Bills' 2014 and 2015 first round draft picks.
Oct 22, 2014 ESPN story :
Here are the teams with the most room to maneuver: Jacksonville (approximately $23 million), Cleveland ($19 million) and Philadelphia ($16 million).
A number of playoff contenders have surprising surpluses: New England ($11 million), Cincinnati ($9 million), Denver ($8 million), Baltimore ($6 million), Arizona ($6 million) and Carolina ($6 million).
Oct 27, 2014 - USA Today - 5 sensible NFL trade deadline deals
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